MLB In Full Bloom - Rangers Preview - 3/26/2014

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5– Number of days until Opening Day

Texas Rangers Preview

Could the rash of injuries that's taken hold of the Texas Rangers this spring provide an added layer of job security for manager Ron Washington? The short answer is yes. Certainly, Washington and the rest of the Rangers are under pressure this season to contend. The club made back-to-back World Series trips in 2010 and 2011, but that's getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. The Rangers won 93 games in 2012, but the Rangers lost the wild-card game. And then the Rangers won 91 games in 2013 and that wasn't good enough because the Rangers lost a play-in game to get to the wild-card game. This past offseason, the Rangers dealt Ian Kinsler to the Tigers in exchange for All-Star slugger Prince Fielder while also signing Shin-Soo Choo in addition to a few other tweaks. The biggest question facing the Rangers just days away from Opening Day is how they will handle all the injuries.

Key Additions: Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Choice, J.P. Arecibia, Adam Rosales

Key Departures: Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, Craig Gentry, Josh Lindblom, Matt Garza, Lance Berkman, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski

OFFENSE: On paper, the Texas Rangers look to have a potent offense. But, they have already suffered two key injuries. Jurickson Profar, the starting second baseman, is out for the next 10-12 weeks with a torn muscle in his shoulder. So is starting catcher Geovany Soto who suffered a torn meniscus that will require surgery and he is expected to miss 10-12 weeks. Also, starting shortstop Elvis Andrus is dealing with soreness in his shoulder and elbow after not throwing this offseason. Now that we know who the Rangers won't have in the Opening Day lineup, who will be there? Shin-Soo Choo must replicate his 2013 performance this year with the Reds. His career average of a .389 on-base percentage is essential with all the injuries. Prince Fielder seems poised for a bounce back season and should post strong numbers in Arlington. Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios will provide power as well, but this lineup is flawed with players with low OBP and could struggle with the injuries to Profar and Soto.

STARTING ROTATION: A few of the key injuries the Rangers are currently dealing with is with Yu Darvish and Greg Holland. Darvish has been officially scratched from an Opening Day start and will see a neck/back specialist today. The Rangers want to know exactly what they're dealing with, which certainly makes sense given the nature of the ailment. Martin Perez or Tanner Scheppers as the two leading candidates to start Opening Day. Holland is out for half the year after injuring his knee while playing with his dog. Colby Lewis was a huge part of Texas' rotation when the team made consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He hasn't been healthy since halfway through the 2012 season but took a minor league offer from the Rangers with an invite to spring training in the offseason. He needs to step up and fill the absence of Holland. Matt Harrison 2013 was a disaster and he must return to the form of 2011 and 2012. We'll have to see who manager Ron Washington chooses to complete the starting rotation, but one thing is for sure - Darvish and Holland won't be apart of it for awhile.

BULLPEN: The loss of Joe Nathan opened up the closer's job for someone to take control of. Neftali Feliz and Joakim Soria have experience at the of games. Feliz was the lead candidate to be the Rangers closer this season, but he has been unable find his velocity or any consistent command this spring and was optioned to minor league camp yesterday. Tanner Scheppers could also get some consideration, though he doesn't have the flare you want from a closer. His ERA, a minuscule 1.88 last season, is sure to increase this year. Neal Cotts and Robbie Ross are left-handed specialists that will provide some relief, but the Rangers bullpen looked to be a strength on paper, but now it is full of question marks.

2014 Prediction: Even before the season begins, Rangers manager Ron Washington is dealing with more injuries than anyone could have imagined. He won't use it as an excuse, but it has to help his job security in that if the Rangers don't go on a great run to win the division or make the postseason, it's likely because they weren't healthy and didn't have the depth. The Rangers were a team that many experts had winning the AL West in 2014. On paper, the Rangers were the best team. But, the best laid plans can even take a bad turn and that is certainly the case for the Rangers. This organization has more questions than answers these days because of all the injuries and the lack of depth. The Rangers will struggle in 2014 and miss out on the postseason.

Final Record 82-8o (Third Place AL West)

MLB In Full Bloom - Angerls Preview - 3/25/2014

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6– Number of days until Opening Day

101,396– Number of signatures at www.budweiser.com/openingday to make Opening Day a National Holiday.

Los Angeles Angels Preview

For the second season in a row, the Los Angeles Angels dug themselves an early hole with an awful April. They finished the 2013 season with a 78-84 record, under performing their 81-81 predicted record by a few games. Heading into year three of Mike Trout reign over baseball, the Angels still have some glaring holes. Combine those with a heavy influx of talent elsewhere in the division and you get the strong possibility of another disappointing season in Anaheim.

Key Additions: David Freese, Joe Smith, Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago, Raul Ibanez

Key Departures: Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos,

OFFENSE: The Angels made a couple of moves this offseason to shore up some holes on their roster, but trading Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos leaves the team without much depth in their lineup. Kole Calhoun will be a full-time starter after breaking onto the scene with a .282 batting average last season. On the other side of the outfield, Josh Hamilton will try to replicate his second half production. After an abysmal June, Hamilton hit .287 after the All-Star break. He is already a bit behind schedule after a calf strain. J.B. Shuck will be the team's fourth outfielder, and some guy named Mike Trout will look to continue post crazy good numbers in center field. Albert Pujols battled plantar fasciitis that significantly limited his production last year and the Angels are hoping for a big bounce back season from him. David Freese should provide some pop at third base if he can remain healthy. Howie Kendrick and Raul Ibanez will produce as well for the Angels should run out a strong lineup everyday in 2o14.

STARTING ROTATION: The Angels' pitching staff posted a 4.24 ERA last season, fifth-worst in the American League. This poor showing was no fault of Jered Weaver, who put up a 3.27 ERA to lead the rotation. Unfortunately, he also spent time on the disabled list and failed to total 200 innings for the second consecutive year. The forearm tightness that bothered him last September has not been an issue so far this spring, but it may be something to keep an eye on going forward, as the Angels' pitching staff will only go as far as Weaver and C.J.Wilson take them. Garrett Richards will slot into the rotation behind Weaver and Wilson after a solid audition to end the 2013 season. Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago round out the staff and both have decent upside.

BULLPEN: The bullpen was a major issue last season, with the Ryan Madson signing never panning out and Sean Burnett only able to appear in 9 2/3 innings. With Dane De La Rosa as a  backup option at closer, excellent left-hander Burnett coming back and hopefully healthy and the addition of Joe Smith, it is fair to expect a big improvement for the Angels bullpen. Ernesto Frieri picked up an impressive 37 saves last year and he did it with an astounding strikeout rate. Frieri owns the 9th inning on a short leash as De La Rosa appears to be the closer-in-waiting in Anaheim.

2014 Prediction: It's going to come down to how the pitching staff works out. The Angels are going to have plenty of offense, but the run prevention appears to be lacking. I think the Angels are going to be better this season. I expect them to be a contender and let's not forget they won 89 games in 2012 and had a litany of things go wrong for them last season. I believe we've seen the downside to this team and that was last season and they still won 78 games.

Final Record: 86-76 (2nd Place in AL West)

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